More ups than downs – McCann celebrates 10 years as Hendon boss

In the last decade, Hendon have played at six different home grounds, reached the FA Cup first round twice, almost been relegated and twice finished just shy of the play-offs.

Throughout that nomadic existence, one man has been in the dugout – wherever it was.

On Monday, Gary McCann celebrated 10 years in charge of the Greens, having also made almost 200 appearances for them as a goalkeeper.

If there were such a thing as a Hendon Hall of Fame, McCann would take pride of place alongside former striker Iain Dowie, and a fleet-of-foot forward by the name of Raheem Sterling, who once featured for the youth team.

He may not quite have reached the longevity of Wealdstone boss Gordon Bartlett – it’s 20 years for him this summer – but McCann can tell a similar tale of firefighting to put a competitive team on the pitch, amid a backdrop of homelessness and penny-pinching.

Not long into his fourth season in charge, Hendon had to leave Claremont Road – where they’d played for 82 years – and spent a few months touring west London, playing at Staines, Northwood and Hillingdon, before settling on a groundshare at Vale Farm, Wembley.

They are currently midway through a three-year agreement to play at Harrow Borough’s Earlsmead, with the eventual aim of settling at training base Silver Jubilee Park.

On the pitch, the Greens avoided the drop by four points in McCann’s first full campaign, but have since finished seventh twice, as well as playing Chelmsford City and Aldershot in the first round proper of the FA Cup.

McCann told West London Sport: “It’s been a rocky road with plenty of ups and downs.

“But the downs are definitely outweighed by the ups, I’d say. It’s been challenging at times but it’s been enjoyable.

“We’ve played at half-a-dozen home grounds and when you haven’t got your own home it’s very hard.

“But we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the move to Silver Jubilee Park imminent.

“The FA Cup runs have been pivotal financially. Without them, I’m not sure we would be where we are now.”

Even in the last decade, non-League football management has become more complex – but McCann believes it is making the job more enjoyable, rather than more stressful.

He said: “You’ve got agents, fitness coaches, opposition scouts involved now. Anyone who has not got those things tends to come up short.

“We have the opposition watched and Mark [Findley] our physio looks after not just rehabilitation but the fitness of the boys.

“It’s much more professional now, trickling down from the top level. That’s where it should be and where I like it to be.”

McCann’s 10th full season looks like being his very best. The 42-year-old has guided the Greens to the top five of the Ryman Premier Division, chasing the likes of Maidstone, Dulwich and Margate, whose budgets and attendances dwarf those of Hendon.

Going into the final third of the campaign, promotion to Conference South – after more than 50 years in the Isthmian League – is a distinct possibility.

McCann said: “This is the best group of players I’ve assembled in my time as a manager.

“There are certain clubs around us who are spending big but we’ve got the togetherness and spirit that you can’t buy.

“The boys still believe. They’re still looking above them not around them.

“If we can do it, what a great way to cap off 10 years.”

Hendon’s chairman Simon Lawrence said the club would be looking to publicly mark McCann’s time in charge in the near future.

He added: “The word legend is used quite glibly these days but what Gary has achieved as a player and over 10 years as our boss elevates him into a small pantheon of Hendon legends.

“We have been very lucky to have him and we look forward to working with him for years to come.”

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